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Motivation Yardstick: Rewards or Punishment? Discover the Superior Performance Trigger

by Medindia Content Team on April 10, 2006 at 8:00 PM
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Motivation Yardstick: Rewards or Punishment? Discover the Superior Performance Trigger

Avidly observing participants at a simulated investment game, a study, intending to investigate the triggers for effective and sustained motivation while working collectively in a team, revealed stark observations amongst its participants.

The study conducted by the University of Erfurt team, found improved productivity and achievement of targets among teams, when 'punishments' became a form of motivation. Psychologists do not agree with this method, because of its overriding negative overtones, and in their opinion, rewards would have a lasting effect on motivation levels.

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With a view to thrash out the motivation phenomena in a team, 84 students were asked to dabble in a virtual investment game. They were provided Deutshe to plan any investment they wished to, with the ultimate goal of making the highest money.

The groups were broadly categorized as 'punishment motivated' and 'non- punishment' motivated groups. Nearly two thirds of the 84 participants opted to join the group that did not punish.
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The results were made public at the end of each round with the choice thrown open for the participants to interchange groups if they so wish. It was observed that at the end of a couple of rounds, there was a swing in participation among the 'punishment' group, who cohesively worked in the team to achieve a target. The non-punishing group was virtually orphaned with most people crossing over to the 'punishing group'.

Though the latter rounds did not really have any punishment, it was observed that just by a mere threat of punishment, the participants were triggered into putting their best foot forward.

Report author Bettina Rockenbach said: "We present support for the idea that institutions with built-in sanctioning mechanisms can establish norms of co-operation and out-compete institutions lacking mechanisms for punishing freeloaders."

But Kairen Cullen, a group behavior expert from the University of London, emphasized the futility of negative psychology triggers in a group and said, "In a group you will always get a minority who do not work for the common good. But it is much more in vogue to encourage people by offering reward or positive incentives. Offering negatives may encourage change in the short-term, but it does not alter behavior in the long run"
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